Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSNHL), also known as sudden deafness, is a rapid loss of hearing in one ear, often from unknown causes, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD).   

The NIDCD estimates that about one in 5,000 people will develop SSNHL every year, yet only 10-15% of those diagnosed can trace their hearing loss to a particular origin. Identifiable causes can include head trauma, infectious diseases, ototoxic drugs, tumors, and blood circulation problems, among other things.

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Practitioners typically prescribe corticosteroids to treat SSNHL, the NIDCD reports, except in cases where hearing loss can be attributed to an underlying cause (in which case the cause would be treated to alleviate the hearing loss symptoms).

In some cases, however, age may determine the success of treatment for SSNHL, as recent research has shown.

Hear-it AISBL—a nonprofit organization that provides information on hearing loss—has summarized the results of a South Korean study that looked at age-related treatment outcomes for SSNHL. In this article, we’ll share the highlights, edited and adapted from the Hear-it website.

Two groups of individuals diagnosed with SSNHL at Seoul National University Hospital—children aged 4-12 and adolescents aged 12—were treated with a two-week course of systemic steroids intended to help restore their hearing, a widely-accepted treatment protocol, according to the Hear-it article.

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Researchers averaged “complete” recovery rates—defined as a final hearing level less than 25 dB—and “partial” recovery rates—defined as final hearing from 25 to 45 dB with a hearing gain lower than 15 dB—to  come up with a “total” recovery rate for each group. According to the study, they found that the children’s group had lower total hearing recovery rates, at 36.3% compared to the adolescence group’s recovery rate of 64.4%.

The authors of the study, “Sudden sensorineural hearing loss in children and adolescents: Clinical characteristics and age-related prognosis,” concluded that high initial hearing threshold and the absence of tinnitus were poor prognostic factors related to hearing recovery. They recommended active treatment for all childhood patients diagnosed with SSNHL.

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This content is provided to the 4MyHearingBiz community by CareCredit and also adapted from Hear-it.org.